Girvan Folk Festival, 2021   Covid related cancellation – Move to an Online event

Girvan Folk Festival, 2020 had to be cancelled owing to the situation with the coronavirus. Our planned 2021 has now suffered a similar fate and will now be restricted to some On-line events.

As part of our transition plans, and as we look forward to 2022 and beyond, we hope to increasingly extend  Girvan Folk Festival activities beyond the narrow confines of the May Bank Holiday Weekend.  For several years now we have had some local outreach concerts throughout the year, and during our 45th Festival we introduced a ‘Linger Longer’ strategy and had a concert in Culzean Castle in the week following the festival.  For 2020 and 2021 we planned to initiate a three-year rolling project with local schools involving storytelling.  We also chose two themes – Travellers and The Musical links between Scotland and Ireland – anticipating some longer-term collaborations arising from these.  All these plans were impacted by restrictions related to Covid-19, but these plans are still very much on the table and we have to believe that we can come out of this stronger for 2022 and beyond.

We also have fledgling twinning relationships with Bromyard Folk Festival and the Johnny Doherty Festival. These take place later in the year and hopefully will benefit from the vaccine rollout and by that time things will be closer to normal. Nothing has yet been arranged, but there might be an opportunity to add a ‘Girvan Flavour’ to those events, with a few more people from Scotland heading south and west.


Our minds are straying to HOW we come out of this stronger rather than IF. As responsible organisers, we need to focus on longer term funding applications and planning, so that the actual weekend, although important, is not seen as the whole event.  There might be opportunities to use technology, and although live streaming and other such technologies can never really rival a live event, should this period of social isolation go on for an extended period of time, the idea of a ‘virtual Girvan’ may not be as far fetched as it might initially sound.

As far as the impact of this situation on the town of Girvan and its people and businesses – we have been floating the idea for some time of the benefits should Girvan decide to invent itself as a ‘Festival Town’, encouraging various small festivals throughout the year.  Our twinned Festival, the Johnny Doherty Festival comes from a small town that does just that – Ardara in Donegal. Although our organising group would naturally want to focus on our own specific aims in relation to traditional music in this context, it could be that Girvan Folk Festival, given its expertise, could take a leading role in encouraging other organisers to curate their own event. Ultimately, a strong local core facilitating group serving both the Folk Festival and any others who wanted to put on events, might make it easier for a new generation of organisers to take the Festival forward in the future.

On a more personal basis, I, Pete Heywood, (I’m writing this communication on behalf of the committee), had my own plan for succession which has been interrupted by these coronavirus related issues. 2020 was to be the second of two years of responsibility as artistic director before a ‘mentored handover’ to a younger generation.  Our aim was to put the festival on a sound financial footing in order to facilitate a practical handover.  Although cancellation in 2020 came out of the blue, we are trying to take this as an opportunity to put the Festival in an even stronger position for 2022 and beyond. That mentored handover will now take place shortly after the online only festival events in May 2021 so that the new team can steer the festival towards 2022 and beyond.

Our currents plans included stretching our wings a bit. Last year we explored links with the Girvan Writers Group, who had expressed ambitions to create some form of literary event in future years.  This year our plan was to develop that relationship. We had a launch of a documentary film about Walter McCorrisken lined up. Walter billed himself as Scotland’s Worst Poet but in reality was very much part of a strong Scottish tradition of humour. Alongside this, we had plans to look at some of the Ayrshire dialect poets. So much of this is now on the back burner, yet ready to pick up on.

It is too early to predict what is likely to happen later in the year.  We have a twinning relationship with Bromyard Folk Festival in England and the Johnny Doherty Festival in Ireland. These take place later in the year and hopefully by that time things may be back to normal. Nothing has yet been arranged, but there might be an opportunity to add a ‘Girvan Flavour’ to those events with a few more people from Scotland heading south and west.

We have to believe that there WILL be silver linings and we look forward to encouragement, ideas and support from all those people for whom Girvan has been a big part of their lives.

If you want to discuss anything directly with me, my mobile is 0784 332 8739.  My phone is almost always on silent, but if I miss your call, I’ll get back to you. – Pete Heywood